Since some time in the early 80s I’ve laboured delightedly and intermittently to catch up with Ursula K. LeGuins oeuvre. I’ve covered her collections of short fiction and essays, and I will soon have her novels done, leaving the poetry and short kids’ books.
Apart from her latest novel, I’ve yet to read 1980’s The Beginning Place. In fact, I’m reading it now. And it’s a good read so far, a critique of modern US society foreshadowing Always Coming Home. But there’s one curious bug in the logic.
Imagine a gate to another world. When you pass the gate your perceptions continue without break: you can move and act and take in your surroundings, you eat and shit and sleep as usual. But when you return through the gate you find that no time has passed in primary reality. This is standard fantasy fare.
Now imagine that you place a large clock outside the gate and wear a wristwatch. Entering the gate, it seems to me that your watch would continue to run during your stay in the other world, just like the machinery of your body goes on. If you observed the clock through the gate, it would seem to stand still, or no photons would reach you at all. An observer outside the gate however would see no pause in the movements of the clock: she would just see you enter the gate and then immediately exit it again.
LeGuin makes the wristwatch stop when you enter the gate, then start again when you exit. For some reason, this particular little contraption remains linked to primary reality, while her characters’ bodies do not. I’m geeky enough to find this to be an irksome blemish in the story.